Driver who critically injured girl at Saanich crosswalk granted full parole
A woman who was convicted of critically injuring a young girl at a crosswalk in Saanich, B.C., in 2017 has been granted full parole after spending less than one year in jail.
In 2020, Tenessa Nikirk was found guilty of dangerous driving for the 2017 crash that left then-11-year-old Leila Bui with catastrophic injuries.
The court heard from witnesses that Nikirk was speeding, texting and crossing into the oncoming lane to pass other vehicles before the crash occurred.
A video expert also testified that Nikrik was travelling over 100 km/h when Bui was struck at the crosswalk, leaving the young girl with a broken neck, a ruptured spleen and a permanent brain injury.
In December 2020, Nikirk was sentenced to two years in prison for the crash, as well as a three-year driving ban.
She appealed her conviction just weeks after sentencing and was released on bail for approximately one year until the appeal hearing was completed on Jan. 25, 2022.
Her appeal was denied and she was taken into custody to serve her sentence.
About eight months later, on Aug. 19, the Parole Board of Canada approved Nikirk's application for full parole.
The parole conditions include a ban on driving, contacting the victim's family, and a requirement to attend mental health counselling.
The parole board said in its decision that Nikirk did not have any prior criminal history, was assessed by a psychologist and was categorized as being at a "low risk" to reoffend, and that she was "incredibly remorseful and traumatized" by the crash.
Tenessa Nikirk (right) is pictured entering court in December 2020. (CTV News)
Her application for full parole was also supported by her institutional parole officer and behavioural counsellor.
At her parole hearing, Nikirk said that her family was in a stressful situation leading up to the crash, saying that her mother was fleeing an abusive partner at the time.
"Together with your mother and siblings, you relocated, changed telephone numbers, and took other safety precautions," reads the parole decision.
"You describe being distressed and feeling like you had to be available to your mother constantly by text."
The parole board also noted, however, that Nikirk referred to the crash as an accident.
"You said you think about the accident over and over, and you deeply regret being so careless. The board corrected you, explaining that this was not an 'accident' – you made choices, your behaviour was extremely reckless, and you caused this collision with a pedestrian."
Leila Bui, right, is pictured shortly after the crash. (GoFundMe)
Nikrik's parole application outlined plans for the 25-year-old to live with her mother in the Lower Mainland during her parole.
"The board recognizes that your offence caused catastrophic and life-changing injury to a young girl and altered the course of her family's life forever," reads the parole decision.
"The extent of the harm you caused cannot be overstated."
However, the parole board also explained that its mandate is not to be punitive but to make the "least restrictive determination" it can under current laws while also protecting society.
Ultimately, the parole board said it believed Nikirk being out on full parole did not present an "undue risk to society" but would contribute to protecting society by allowing her to reintegrate.
During Nikirk's sentencing last year, Bui's family said they were exhausted with the "agonizing process" of conviction, sentencing, and appealing.
When Nikirk was on bail in 2021, Leila's father, Tuan Bui, said there was "something wrong" with the justice system.
"When someone has been convicted and sentenced and [is still] able to be out there free to roam the streets... whereas my daughter has been robbed of all her freedom, it just doesn’t seem right," he said at the time.
Leila Bui is pictured with her sister, Myla, and mother, Kairry, at Oakland Elementary school: (CTV News)
A previous version of this story said Nikirk was sentenced in January 2021. In fact, her sentencing was in December 2020.
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